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WOODWARD: Pirates resurface with Gilbert, Houston

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East Carolina athletics director Jon Gilbert, left, sits and talks with football coach Mike Houston during an ECU basketball game in Minges Coliseum on Feb. 13.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, July 18, 2019

NEWPORT, R.I.

East Carolina was picked fifth in the American Athletic Conference football East Division for the second straight year in the league preseason poll, but more important than the poll’s release Tuesday during AAC media days was the confident and persistent presence of ECU athletics director Jon Gilbert and football coach Mike Houston at Gurney’s Newport Resort and Marina.

Gilbert participated in league meetings and even hit the Gurney’s pool Monday afternoon, then at night, he bounced from table to table to socialize with a plethora of people and to soak in the sights at the league’s annual signature summer clambake.

Houston admitted he is still learning about the American and its coaches. Monday and Tuesday provided him with significant opportunities to further his knowledge and insight about the AAC.

The first-year Pirate coach, who owns an 80-25 career record highlighted by winning the Football Championship Subdivision national championship at James Madison in 2016, also was strong and clear in his message about trying to return ECU to winning ways after three straight 3-9 seasons by the Pirates.

The details about the mannerisms by Houston and Gilbert are noteworthy because of the contrast between this year’s AAC event for the Pirates compared to the 2018 version.

One year after ECU was represented uncomfortably at times in Newport, Houston and Gilbert helped reestablish the Pirates and their brand within the league despite media voters not putting much stock into East Carolina’s expected on-field product for this season.

Former coach Scottie Montgomery voiced his frustration when ECU was picked fifth in the East in the 2018 American preseason poll, which ended up being prophetic, but too many people already knew that Montgomery’s future at ECU was shaky.

Surrounded by solid athletics directors, Lee Workman served as acting chief operating officer last July for ECU during AAC media days. Workman temporarily filled a void when the university's athletics department was in major need of new life and proper direction.

Workman tried to fit in a year ago at AAC media days, but the reality was he and Montgomery were on far from permanent footing.

That was replaced one year later by meaningful and long-term words and actions by Houston and Gilbert.

What was the result? ECU football did not gain any wins or drop any losses in Newport, but what the Pirates did do was show off two chief people leading the program's rebuilding mission.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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ECU

August 24, 2019

Here’s our East Carolina beat writer Ronnie Woodward’s shot at ECU football’s starting lineup against N.C. State. First-year Pirate coach Mike Houston should be releasing the team’s Week 1 depth chart Tuesday during his news conference.

Here it is:

OFFENSE

QB -- Holton…

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August 24, 2019

First-year East Carolina football coach Mike Houston has mainly established his starters and is in the fine-tuning phase of August as the noon kickoff against N.C. State in Raleigh is exactly one week away.

ECU was established as a 17-point underdog to the Wolfpack and has the task of trying to…

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August 24, 2019

East Carolina begins its first season under coach Mike Houston one week from today and is aiming to finish better than its three straight 3-9 records from 2016-18. The Pirates haven’t had a winning record since going 8-5 in 2014 under Ruffin McNeill.

Where are the wins in this year’s…

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August 24, 2019

New East Carolina football players reported to preseason camp on Aug. 1, about eight months after athletics director Jon Gilbert and football coach Mike Houston reported to Greenville as instant leaders of a new era of Pirate athletics.

It is in many ways still a rebuilding project, which Gilbert…

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August 22, 2019

East Carolina’s first athletic event of the academic year started and stopped and continued again and stopped again, then was canceled because of inclement weather.

ECU’s women’s soccer team was not able to finish Thursday night’s match against George Mason, even with the…

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August 22, 2019

First-year East Carolina defensive coordinator Bob Trott and first-year Pirate football head coach Mike Houston were similar with their words Wednesday that they think they know what to expect from N.C. State's offense, but they said preparing for an opponent during Week 1 of the season is…

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August 21, 2019

Many intricacies and focuses for East Carolina football players have changed with Monday's start to the fall semester and the N.C. State game a little more than a week away, but Pirate coach Mike Houston had no plans of intensity dipping with the transition from preseason workouts to in-season and…

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August 20, 2019

No more waiting for Holton Ahlers or the rest of the East Carolina football team or Pirate fans.

With next Saturday’s noon kickoff at N.C. State getting closer and closer, first-year Pirate coach Mike Houston officially announced after Tuesday’s practice that Ahlers will be his…

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August 20, 2019

Quarterback Holton Ahlers led East Carolina’s football team in rushing last season with 592 yards and six touchdowns on 119 carries.

New offensive principles are in place at ECU under a new coaching staff, leading to some intrigue about Ahlers and his run availability. Would this staff, led…

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August 19, 2019

East Carolina first-year football coach Mike Houston described the Pirates' No. 1 center, Branden Pena, as a "tough joker" on Saturday.

The football-centric praise showed how far the relationship has come between Pena and Houston since December.

"Branden Pena is a guy that I didn't know his name…

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